University of Carbon Storage?

Photo by Flickr user Takver under Creative Commons

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Proponents of clean coal, an umbrella term for all efforts to reduce the environmental impact of our most abundant fossil fuel resource, hail carbon storage and sequestration (CCS) as the best way to get rid of power plants’ carbon emissions for good. In essence, CCS entails rounding up carbon dioxide and keeping it in reservoirs deep below our feet. Unfortunately, It is incredibly expensive, and some scientists have said it could harm plants, animals, and even people if not executed properly.

But the government is moving ahead with its full-fledged embrace of CCS. Last month, the Department of Energy announced that it would allocate nearly $13 million for 43 research projects designed to advance CCS with the help of graduate and undergraduate training programs.

But as Victoria Schlesinger reports for the November/December issue of Mother Jones, some are saying “Not Under My Backyard” to CCS projects. Schlesinger’s story highlights a failed attempt in a small California town of 2,000, that has received significant scrutiny:

“Right at first, you go, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t want that in my backyard,'” says Marlene Corbitt, secretary of Thornton’s Chamber of Commerce. A special town meeting, held in the elementary school, was organized, and the WESTCARB scientists explained their proposal: to build the storage facility at a site five minutes from town for two weeks, then monitor the structure for two years. The 4,000 tons of CO2 would remain underground for good. The townspeople, recalls Thornton’s fire chief and de facto mayor, Vince Tafuri, were unconvinced. “Even though they said there was no potential danger, I don’t think the community believed that 100 percent.”

Read the story for more about CCS and whether the NUMBY dilemma will derail clean coal’s best hope.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest